Photo by Rena Laverty
Neither side could light the lamp in the opening 20 minutes as the game was locked in a stalemate. Des Moines outshot the U18s by a 12-5 total, but U.S. netminder Nick Kempf (Chicago, Ill.) was up to the task. Brodie Ziemer (Hutchinson, Minn.) put a pair of shots on net to lead Team USA in the opening frame.
The Buccaneers drew the first power play of the game early in the second and garnered some great chances, but Kempf made a right pad and glove save on consecutive shots to keep the zeros on the scoreboard.
The U18s broke the goalless game when Stiga converted in front of the net at 9:01 of the second. After a hard forecheck, Hagens pulled the puck from a Des Moines defender and slid a perfect back-door pass for Stiga and a 1-0 lead. The helper gave Hagens at least a point in all seven games this season.
Team USA doubled the advantage with a shorthanded marker, the team's second of the season, at 13:42. Max Plante (Hermantown, Minn.) chipped the puck out of the defensive zone and hustled down the ice to earn a 2-on-1 opportunity with Kamil Bednarik (Chicago, Ill.). Bednarik gave the puck up early and Plante returned it in perfect fashion as Bednarik's wraparound gave the U18s a 2-0 lead.
Stiga made it a three-goal game before the buzzer sounded on the second as he connected for his fifth goal over the past two games. Ziemer won an offensive-zone draw back to Hagens, who put a point shot on net. Stiga used a beautiful redirection to sneak it past Adam Moller and extend the Team USA lead to three.
Des Moines spoiled Team USA's shutout bid 31 seconds into the final period. Ben Kevan dropped a pass to Owen West in the slot, who beat new goaltender Jack Parsons (Ithaca, N.Y.) and cut the lead to two.
The U18s restored the three-goal lead with a power-play marker at 6:55 of the third. Off of a pass from Hagens, Bednarik went cross-crease for Austin Baker (White Lake, Mich.), stationed at the right hashes. He dropped to a knee and blasted a one-timer for his fifth score of the season.
The U18s' penalty kill was a perfect 4-for-4 on the night, including back-to-back kills late in regulation.
Kempf turned aside all 22 shots he saw to pick up his second win of the season. Parsons managed 10 saves in relief during the third period.
The U18s are back in action tomorrow night as they kick off the 2023-24 Kroger College Series with a contest against Western Michigan. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. from USA Hockey Arena and tickets are available at USAHockeyNTDP.com/tix or by calling the box office at 734-453-8400.